Even though Boomers believe “old age” is still many years away, the first of this age wave will be hitting 65 in two years. Although they don’t want to think about it, Boomers can learn from those of the “Greatest Generation” already considered old. What they can learn are the most common challenges that confront older Americans. In a recent internet posting, August 15, 2009, by Marc Onigman, Stone Hearth Newsletters [firstname.lastname@example.org], the 10 most common medical challenges were listed:
FUNCTIONAL DECLINE: Skeletal muscle is eventually replaced with fat and the body becomes weaker.
DEPRESSION: Considered as prevalent as the common cold in the elderly, depression can be the result of major life changes, including retirement, losing loved ones and loss of mobility and independence.
DISEASE: Chronic diseases associated with the aging process, including high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypothyroidism, constipation, incontinence and arthritis.
POLYPHARMACY: The number of prescription and over-the-counter medications that elderly people are taking in alarming numbers.
FALLS: Low blood pressure, which can be a result of poorly managed hypertension or dehydration, can lead to dizziness. That dizziness, combined with a decreased ability of the vascular system to compensate for changes in position such as standing up, is the largest cause of falls.
ABUSE AND NEGLECT: These two problems, including self-neglect, will continue to afflict the elderly.
FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION: Vulnerable elderly people can easily become victims of family members or caregivers.
DEMENTIA: Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a gradual decline in a person’s mental functioning, and is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans over age 65, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia triple healthcare costs for people over 65.
CAREGIVER BURNOUT: As baby boomers age, many will also be taking care of their own aging parents. That brings caregiver burden, which can lead to a higher risk for depression and other stress-related illnesses.
DEATH AND DYING: Baby boomers will have to decide how they want to live out the end of their lives and how they want to die. Cultural and religious beliefs will impact these decisions.
For more in-depth discussion of these and other challenges faced by Boomers, go to Stone Hearth Newsletter referenced above. For more on aging, elder law, special needs and estate planning for Boomers, visit our web site, www.nc-law.com.